For the National Football League, dealing with the Coronavirus crisis should have been much easier than it has been. The league’s previous season had already finished in February, about a month before the pandemic caused just about everything in the United States to shut down. Yes, some things had to be changed, like the draft being moved from Las Vegas to a virtual format from the ESPN/NFL Network studios. But still, the league had time to make changes and get ready for the start of the 2020 season. Instead, the people at the top sat down and tried to wish away the virus. That was not a good strategy, and the league now finds itself in a hole in trying to start and complete a 2020 NFL season.
NFL Must Prepare Better for 2020 NFL Season
After negotiations with the NFL Players Association, it was decided that there would be an opt-out period, where players could make the choice to not play football this season. In the end, sixty-nine players made the choice to bow out for the season, and return next year. However, these opt-outs took place before the completed deadline, but other players could certainly make the choice to stop playing football after the season begins. What happens if, mid-season, a player, or a group of players somehow get the virus? Who is coming in to help fill in the holes?
Sure, the NFL has strict protocols set up and many may doubt there will be positive tests in the NFL. But the issue is that the NFL season, should it happen, will not take place in a bubble. This will make it difficult to ensure players are following all safety/social distancing protocols. Major League Baseball is currently conducting a shortened season not in a bubble and they have had multiple teams with positive COVID-19 tests. The NFL planning to follow that same format seems dangerous, but the league has not made any preparations to play the season inside a bubble or multiple bubbles.
Dealing With Positive Test Results
So the question now is, what will happen if (or when) someone gets the virus. What is the league going to do? Will they force teams to sit out for a week or more when a player tests positive? If that’s the case, how will that team make up any games that were missed? Will those games be made up at all? Could replacement players possibly be used?
The MLB has been using a “taxi squad” which allows teams to bring additional players to games in case a starter happens to catch the virus before a game. A similar process (most likely utilizing practice squad players) would be useful for NFL teams this season. But what would happen if an entire team was infected, or thought to be infected (a rare possibility, but a possibility nonetheless). How would the NFL handle that?
The possibility of completing a 2020 NFL season is murky right now. There is a strong possibility that games do get played, but whether or not the NFL can make it through a full season, including playoffs, is far from certain. The NFL needs do anything and everything they can to try to safely get through a full season.